The Executive Yuan on Thursday approved a bill that would allow religious groups to change the registrations of their real-estate assets.
Properties owned by religious groups can be regarded as public goods, and the bill would prevent individuals from appropriating them for their own benefits, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) told a weekly Cabinet meeting.
Data from the Ministry of the Interior showed that about 750 hectares of land belonging to 7,500 temples nationwide are registered under the name of natural persons.
That is due to religious groups not having completed their temple registration at the time they acquired land, temples being unable to pay land taxes on donated land, or their land being used for farming and other reasons, Department of Civil Affairs Deputy Director Cheng Ying-hung (鄭英弘) said.
Given frequent arguments among group members over property ownership, the draft bill aims to use administrative tools to reduce such arguments and prevent individuals from appropriating temple assets, he said.
The practice of registering temples under individual names has generated many conflicts, such as when an owner is ordered to auction off the property or about inheriting it, Executive Yuan spokesman Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) said.
The new bill seeks to prevent such conflicts, Lo added.
The proposal is to be forwarded to the Legislative Yuan for review and approval.
Two years after the bill is passed by the legislature, qualified religious groups seeking to change a temple’s registration can file an application with the interior ministry, Cheng said.
Qualified religious groups include those registered as foundations, corporations and temples, Cheng said, adding that groups whose applications are being reviewed would be regarded as unregistered temples.
The bill is not applicable to altars, and unregistered churches or structures, he added.
Religious groups cannot own farmland, so the bill would restrict third parties or inheritors from transferring land used for farming to another party, Deputy Minister of the Interior Hua Ching-chun (花敬群) said.
Restrictions on temples acquiring certain categories of land would remain, Hua said.
Due taxes would have to be paid before land can be prepared under the bill, he added.
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